Dr. Francis S. Collins, the National Institutes of Health director, who testified before senators along with Surgeon General Jerome Adams, said a vaccine wouldn’t be made available unless it was safe.
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
WASHINGTON — Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, took issue on Wednesday with President Trump’s suggestion that a coronavirus vaccine would be available by Election Day, as he sought to reassure senators and the public that a vaccine would not be made available unless it was safe and effective.
“Certainly, to try to predict whether it happens on a particular week before or after a particular date in early November is well beyond anything that any scientist right now could tell you and be confident they know what they are saying,” Dr. Collins told a Senate panel at a hearing on the effort to find a vaccine.
Wednesday’s hearing, before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, came amid growing concern over whether people would be reluctant to take a coronavirus vaccine, and whether Mr. Trump would apply political pressure on his administration to quickly approve one to give him a boost in his re-election bid.
At a briefing on Wednesday, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, pushed back against that criticism.
“Our timing is not about the election,” she said. “It’s about saving lives.”
On Tuesday, a group of drug companies all in the race to develop vaccines pledged that they would not release any vaccines that did not follow rigorous efficacy and safety standards. Hours later, a leading vaccine developer, AstraZeneca, announced that it had suspended a large-scale, late-stage global clinical trial of a vaccine candidate after a patient experienced what may have been a severe adverse reaction.
Dr. Collins pointed to that development as “a concrete example of how even a single case of unexpected illness is sufficient to hold a clinical trial in multiple countries” — and evidence that “we cannot compromise” on safety.
In an interview on “CBS This Morning,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, echoed that sentiment.
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